WGAL-TV of Lancaster, PA, which prefers to be known as "News8," an NBC network affiliate, launched a 4 p.m. newscast now that the TV coverage of the Summer Olympics has come to an end. In its new newscast, the anchors asked for opinions of this new effort. So I am offering mine.
I think they bit off more than they can chew. The format is the same as the other newscasts, the stories are the same, and nothing is new except the time it airs.
Even to the ordinary lay person, the move is an obvious attack against a competing television station which has had a 4 p.m. newscast for several years now. That's all it is.
Here are a few pointers that will probably not make much difference.
First, the formats between the stations' news programs are significantly different. In some ways, "News8" newscasts are more boring.
Second, WGAL-TV is locked in with a network that has "Nightly News" broadcast at 7 p.m. The other station has no network news program to link with, so it produces a 4 p.m. and a 5 p.m. newscast and moves on to entertainment programming.
In order to stay linked in with NBC, Channel 8 has stretched its local news coverage to 4 p.m., which means they are now producing 2.5 hours of continuous "local" news, until NBC airs its "Nightly News." Before this change, Channel 8 was airing 1.5 hours of "local" news,which was already repeating itself three times, as the old format had "News8 at 5," "News8 at 5:30," and "News8 at 6."
WGAL-TV is dangerously stretching the work schedules of its anchors, not to mention their reporters and producers. The news programs have already showing signs of problems via technical issues and mis-cues, requiring anchors to apologize. It happened again on the opening evening with the new additional program.
The station had tried to bait viewers watching an earlier news program by saying they would have more details of a story in the next half-hour program. If they think they can bait viewers into sitting in front of a TV set for 2.5 hours, they're going to have serious setback, especially when the segments are nearly identical re-hash of the segment in the earlier program.
I can't see WGAL-TV's ratings increasing at all with this move. I actually expect the ratings to thin out from what they had been.
The station also spends too much time patting itself on the back during its news programs in forms of speech such as "News8 was the only one there when this happened...," and "News8 was the first crew there," and more similar boastings.
One thing you can bet one: If a broadcast station has to remind you how good they are, or how they get something first, or get something exclusive, you can rest assured they need to make you believe that to shadow what they can't do or fail to do. The station should stop talking the talk and walk the walk to prove to its viewers that it is fast, thorough and truthful about the events they cover.
To sum it up, WGAL-TV's latest effort is at best a failure, and a joke. It's coverage is shallow, repetitious, and lack depth or originality.